Some old-fashioned Canadian humility and a few strategic beers have helped spark new Toronto research that will radically alter the diagnosis and treatment of childhood brain tumours.

Based out of the Hospital for Sick Children, a new study shows that the most common form of pediatric brain tumours, known as medulloblastomas, actually represents four distinct types of cancer.

The study also presents simple tests to distinguish one form of the disease from another and offers hope that many children can avoid the standard radiation treatments that cause debilitating handicaps.

Dr. Michael Taylor, the senior study author, said the paradigm-shifting research was only made possible through collegial interactions over beer with other cancer researchers around the globe.

Taylor says medulloblastoma studies have been hampered in the past by a famously “distrustful” culture among neuro-oncologists, which saw researchers horde their tumour samples, restricting the number available to their colleagues.

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